"I felt convinced God wanted me at the ranch."

When the author, a Catholic priest, leaves his home parish to spend some time with his mother after her recent health crisis, he reckons to stay at Lavaro Ranch for a short while. But that brief visit, meant to offer practical aid and familial comfort, will turn into long years fraught with a stream of familial predicaments. Zoe, a charming, responsible, and honest woman, speaks freely with her son, confiding fears and despair over her marriage to the author’s stepfather, Al—an acerbic, manipulating character apparently determined to run her life and ruin her relationships with all but him. As Zoe confides more openly with Brezovar, they become convinced that a divorce is the best path to the peacefulness she has earned over the years. The tangled threads of that decision, mixed with the author’s attempts to maintain contacts within the officialdom of his religion and the wish to somehow reconcile with an estranged brother, will occupy the coming years, as the author and his mother still pray together for mutual healing.

Brezovar’s engaging memoir is written with a grasp of the sort of dialogue, characters, and settings that might easily comprise a cinematic drama. The issues raised are complex yet familiar, including job security, religious regulations conflicting at times with real-life situations, distressing and emotionally exhausting relationships among rival siblings, a dynamic but devilish stepfather, and a mother attempting to please all in order to better face and embrace a brighter future. The author is shown as an earnest counselor, struggling with his own doubts and watching his life slowly alter to accept a new home and a new role as mediator and, for his mother, protector. Brezovar’s tapestry of varying themes, both personal and communal, will attract those facing similar challenges, offering glimmers of hope and wider possibility.

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